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Lawmakers Call for Expanded Broadband to Boost Commerce, Create Jobs
May 12, 2010 (04:05 PM EDT)


WASHINGTON, May 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As private industry and federal regulators look to expand high-speed Internet access, small business owners told Members of Congress today that widely available and affordable broadband service can help small firms increase productivity, compete in the global marketplace and create badly needed jobs.  During a hearing of the House Committee on Small Business, entrepreneurs and lawmakers said that bringing broadband service to unserved and underserved areas is a vital infrastructure challenge for the 21st century.  

"Like the interstate highway system, building a national broadband network has the potential to revolutionize American commerce," said Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business. "Deploying broadband now will create tens of thousands of jobs immediately, while opening up economic opportunity in communities across the nation for the long term."

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed into law in February of 2009, allocated $7.2 billion for broadband deployment.  During today's hearing, lawmakers discussed those programs as well as the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) recently released National Broadband Plan.   Developed by the FCC, the Plan sets a 10-year goal of helping at least 100 million homes access affordable, ultra high-speed Internet service. It also calls for a public-private partnership to support digital literacy training for small businesses.  Lawmakers said achieving those goals would help entrepreneurs find new ways to sell their products.  

"Three quarters of small businesses have a website, but only one in four sell their products through e-commerce.  In today's global economy that's just not good enough," said Velazquez. "The Broadband Plan holds the potential to narrow that gap, helping small firms reach new markets with their products."

The hearing also examined the importance of an open Internet to entrepreneurship.  The FCC recently put forth a framework aimed at ensuring consumers can choose the products and applications they want on the Internet.  Lawmakers noted that for small businesses to harness broadband to its full potential, the Internet would need to remain a forum where new ideas can freely develop.

"The freedom for customers to connect with whomever they want gives businesses, large and small, the chance to compete in a fair marketplace," said Velazquez. "Our nation's Internet policies should help consumers remain in the driver's seat, while encouraging infrastructure investment and innovation."

Last October, the Committee held a hearing examining how Recovery Act funding was helping to roll out broadband services.  During today's hearing, Velazquez said she and her colleagues would continue pressing to ensure the nation's technology policies take into account entrepreneurs' needs.

Video of the hearing is available by clicking here.

SOURCE House Committee on Small Business Chairwoman Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY)